Websites are for the most part the face of both small and big businesses. Whether you are a freelancer or you are a Fortune 500 company, you should have a website where people can instantly know what you do. To do this you need to make sure to include some key design and development elements of a good website.
To do this you need a good website design. When starting a website design project there are a couple of prerequisites you need to have in mind. These will have you set up for success. In this piece, we are going to focus on some of the most important elements of a website.
We will dive into what each element brings to the table and what impact it has. We will incorporate the use of design samples to help you along. These elements apply in both design and development.
If we are going to do this right, why not start from the top, the header section. The header is the topmost part of a webpage. This is the area or section that all visitors to your website see before interacting with the other parts of the site.
Being the first element of your website means that the header is key in holding most if not all of the core navigation elements. These core navigation elements include the navigation bar; this is what allows anyone visiting the site to flawlessly navigate through the different web pages.
Header essentially hold the site menu, they can have a number of useful layout elements these include:
- The brand identity, this is the logo or the name of the company or individual.
- A call to action button (CTA).
- Links to different categories on the website.
- Social media links.
- Contact information.
- Language translator, this is the case of a multilingual website.
- A search field.
- A subscription field.
- Links to trial options or download options.
The header section can include all these elements. However, at no point should all of them be included at the same time. This is for proper UI/UX practices as well as to avoid bombarding your site visitor with information.
The elements that will be to be included in the header need to draw in the visitor to explore other parts of the website. This means that visual hierarchy is key. Here is a good example of what a properly designed header should be.
The header is essential in the website’s useability, hence it is placed in the most accessible part of the website. And just like text, many users read the elements of your website from top to bottom then top right to bottom. This allows them not to miss any important information.
With modern designs, you will find that some trends call for the headers to be spiced up a bit. While this might look cool it may affect your user’s experience. So, when designing a header, stick to some of the practices that have been in use for a long time.
Here are some popular header practices that have been proven to work.
A layered navigation
This is a double set navigation that separates two or more navigation routes. This helps in decluttering the header thus improving usability.
A sticky header
Sticky headers are the go-to if you have a website that needs the user to scroll. This gives the user access to the navigation even if they are not at the beginning of the webpage.
A hamburger menu
Hamburger menus are especially popular on responsive sites. They are typically marked by three or four horizontal lines that form a hamburger style layout.
Logo As Home
The Logo has for a long time been used as the home button. Many users have been recorded saying that a clickable logo is an indication of the home button. So if you are to make your logo clickable the best practice is to have it navigate to the home page.
Favicons are more or less the first part of your website. Favicons are popularly referred to as bookmark icons or URL icons. They are placed at the website’s URL to represent the brand of the company or individual.
While it is not a must-have it does give your user a connection to your website when they are on it. They also boost the brand’s recognizability.
The hero section of a website serves as the welcoming party for every new user. This is the section that contains the hook to your website. In this section, you can feature anything to draw in visitors. From videos, slideshows, illustrations or anything else that catches the attention of users.
The flexibility to have any art in this section should be planned out. The images, videos, or illustrations used should represent what the company or business is all about. Pick the right images or videos for your brand.
The hero section can also be an image, video, or illustration free. Hero text can be used in this section as well, this text should be large and should stand out. It, however, should not take away from other elements of the site. The main function of the hero section is to act as a visual hook for users. This section should also be interactive and informative.
Call to action buttons are aimed at hinting or encouraging a user to take a certain action to interact with the site. These actions are conversational actions that see the user either subscribe, purchase, contact or sign up.
These actions inherently convert a rather passive user to an active user. A properly designed call to action button has a call to action text to support it. This button also stands out from all the other elements of the site, this is because it has to catch the user’s attention.
An effective and well-done call to action button is very easy to notice since they are intentionally created to stand out. They are bold either in colour or text, this allows the user to know what they are doing.
Call to action buttons that are bland and have no flare to them can be missed. This leads to little to no conversions. Here are some of the most common call to action phrases
- Sign Up
- Learn More
- Buy Now
The menu in a website is the main part of the core of the navigation. This is the representation of the controls that users are supposed to use to get around the site. The menu is a common command layout. It can also be used to organize different categories and segments.
Menus can be placed on different locations on the sites to allow the user access to them whenever they want. Most menus are placed at the top of a site these are header menus, others are placed at the side these are known as side menus while others are placed at the bottom these are the footer menus.
Users can access these menus differently depending on how you pace them across different devices. You can choose to have the site have drop-down menus, drop-up menus, pop up menus or sliding menus. These styles are dependent on functionality, aesthetics, and the overall layout of the website.
You should also consider what most users are accustomed to using. If you go for a different approach you can be sure that it will take users some time to get used to it. This can also cause a bad or poor user experience.
A properly designed menu can increase user engagement and speed up your goals when it comes to satisfying your user’s needs and wants. Most menus today are either horizontal or vertical. However, different individuals and companies are experimenting and giving a new approach to menus. Here are some of the latest menu trends.
This is the most popular menu option. It is the most used and most recognized. It is most of the time used as the core navigation elements of a website. Most of the time it is placed on the header of the website.
Drop-down menus are especially popular on big and complex websites, especially e-commerce sites. The drop-down options feature additional information based on the choices made. The opposite of a drop-down menu is a drop-up menu. The difference is in how the menu opens when a user is interacting with it.
This is a popular menu approach for any responsive site. This is especially used on small screens. Hamburger menus are marked with three horizontal lines that when clicked expand to show the menu options. This menu is known to save on space on small screens.
This is also known as a multi-choice menu. Megamenus are complex and are expandable. Most of the time these menus are presented in a two-dimensional drop-down layout. This menu style is ideal when you are working with a wide number of menu options.
Sidebar menus are more or less of a classic menu. It is placed on either the left or right of a website. The menu options are displayed in vertical format. Vertical menus have been known to be used in both desktop and mobile displays. They have proven to work better in mobile displays and have been used in the place of hamburger menus.
Whenever you have a new or returning visitor to your site and they need certain information fast, they do not have time to go through the entire website. As a result, many users will opt to search for what they want.
The internal search functionality on your website allows for users to easily find their way to what they want and need. This saves the user time, increases interactivity, desirability, and increases usability. A search box or search bar allows users to type in their queries and are sent to where that particular information is.
If you have a big website then you should consider having an internal search bar or box. Make sure that the search bar or box is well designed. So much so that it does not take away from everything on the page and that it is not missed when a user needs it.
For single page websites or small multi-page websites, you do not have to get hung up on having a search bar or box. Instead, you can highlight the most important information. You can do this using colour and font so that this information is not lost.
Sliders make for a big part of a website’s interactivity. Most sliders come as carousels with each slideshow showing a different product or service. Sliders are especially popular on e-commerce websites or business websites. You will also find slides in non-profit organizations showing the different causes they are working on.
Besides their interactive aspects, sliders have for a long time now been a subject of controversies. This is because many developers and designers consider them a lazy way out. However, if you are to look at sliders objectively you will realize how much space they save.
Here are some advantages of sliders:
- Amazing visual hook.
- User interactivity and engagement
- Saves space.
Disadvantages of sliders include:
- The website might be slow because the slider has to load before the images or information is displayed.
- Sliders that are not created with the users’ priority in mind might affect the user’s engagement.
- In the past that have been issues when it comes to the responsiveness of sliders especially on small screens.
- Sliders can be skipped because they can be misconstrued for ads.
Cards or as they are known across other circles, tiles are the go-to elements when it comes to organizing a website. Information can be passed in a homogeneous manner that makes it easy to scan and access. Most cards are organized in grids but they are separated to give them dimension and depth.
The card can be used on different elements. For example, cards can be used on an e-commerce site for different products. On the card, useful and must-know information is passed. For example, the price, discount, and whether the product is in stock or not.
A website is a means for you and your customers or clients to interact. This means you allow your clients to give you feedback or ask questions. To do this customers or website users will use forms. Forms are interactive website elements that allow users to send information to the website owner or customer care representative.
It is a digital representation of paper and pen feedback. Depending on what the form is used for the information should be directly provided and user-friendly. Forms can be used to collect data in different ways. A good example of this is registration of new users, financial details, payments, adding personal details, sending feedback, commenting or subscribing to newsletters.
Forms are used as a digital communication channel between the user and the website owner. The key aspect of designing amazing forms is simplicity. Simple forms are easy to use thus making them user friendly.
The less mandatory information a user has to fill the better. This is because asking for too much personal information is not only unnecessary but intrusive as well. As the website’s owner, you need to make sure that all information shared through forms on your website is protected and not used without the owner’s consent.
When it comes to good UI/UX it is the little things that make all the difference. Progress indicators are part of these small things list. Progress indicators are used to show the user where they are. These can be used on any and all websites.
Think of progress indicators as bookmarks. They are especially beneficial in long articles or on e-commerce sites. They allow users to trace where they are and how far they have to go to either complete a purchase or finish reading.
Videos are not really essential elements of a website, however, they can add to a rather boring page. Over the years there has been an increase in the number of websites that use videos. This has been thanks to the development progress of web development.
Depending on who your target audience is you can choose to have curated video content on the website. For example, if you have an e-commerce site you can have how-to videos explaining how to use the different products you are selling.
Well, crafted video content engages the user’s visual, audio, and emotional engagement. Many people have a preference for watching more videos than reading through long-form articles.
The visual hook applied to the video depends on the placement of the video. Many websites that incorporate videos in their UI do so in the header section. This is done strategically to attract more users. These videos set the mood, send a direct message, and pass on a catchy idea in a few seconds.
When adding a video to your website there are a couple of things you need to consider. One of these being the load time. Long videos make sites take a long time to load. Responsiveness and contrast of the video may also impact your website negatively or positively depending on how you do them.
Tags are part of a website’s secondary navigation. They are popular in blogs or websites that are centred around homogenous content. Tags are used to present the user with key information in form of keywords or phrases.
These tags are used as part of the website’s metadata that can be used to access specific content. Tags are specially curated to the website making them unique for each site. You can make your tags clickable to allow the user to navigate through different blog pieces.
The Footer is the last part of the webpage. Being the last part does not mean that it is of any less importance. The footer has over the years been used as a navigation. It provides the site visitor with useful links, data, and information.
This can be information that is not included in other sections of the website. Some popular features or elements of the footer include:
- The brand identity. This can be either the logo or name of the company or business.
- Contact information.
- Social media links.
- Location on the map.
- Badges of credits.
- Subscription or sign up fields or buttons.
The footer is one of the many elements that may or may not be included in a website. This is evident in websites with an infinite scroll. On such websites, the traditional footer is not applicable. This is because it is not an effective navigation section.
The decision on whether or not you need a footer is dependent on the usability and the navigation of the site. If you choose to use a footer ensure that it worlds seamlessly with the entire site.
Last on our list is an element that is more development-oriented than UI/UX. But it is a very important element of a good website. Breadcrumbs are the navigation elements that support a user when they are navigating through your site.
They allow website users to trace where they are and what they have access to. The best part about breadcrumbs is that they give users an easy time when it comes to figuring out the structure of your website.
While they are not the primary navigation elements they improve and boost your website’s usability especially for big sites.
Some advantages of breadcrumbs include:
With breadcrumbs, users do not have to structure finding their way around your site and content.
Properly laid out breadcrumbs reduce or eliminate misunderstandings when it comes to how the user interacts with the website. The behavioural patterns are easily mapped out and are direct.
Proper use of screen space
Properly crafted breadcrumbs allow content to take proper placement. This is especially with plain text when it is horizontally aligned reducing the space it takes on the screen.
Reduced bounce rate
The ability of breadcrumbs when it comes to increasing a user’s ability to navigate through a website easily gives the user confidence, especially for first-time visitors. These reduced the rate at which they bounce off from one place to another.
With breadcrumbs users easily understand and can map out the hierarchy of elements and content on your website. They can move from one element to another without having to skip the important bits and pieces of the site.
Breadcrumbs have also proved important when it comes to internal searches. This is especially in multi page websites that consist of a complex hierarchy and multiple layers. Today most users, even if they do not know, expect your site to have bread crumbs.
This is especially for e-commerce platforms, blogs and news websites, among others. Your primary navigation is not enough to allow your users to properly interact and navigate through your website.
When designing and even developing your website you have a wide range of elements to choose from. Some of these elements are a must-have and others are optional depending on your target audience. Depending on what your users’ feedback is you can always go back and add or remove some elements.